Fable II Pub Games

BY Michael Ubaldi  //  August 18, 2008

An industry model. Plus, nothing's rigged.


f the promotional demo is one of video gaming's more fruitful inventions, promotional demos with carryover to their releases promise a bounty for interactive marketing. That is, only if done right: Electronic Arts' parsimonious Spore Creature Creator wasn't received well on these pages. Lionhead Studios, with the substantial gameplay and faithful look and feel of Xbox Live Arcade's Fable II Pub Games, has put together an industry model.

Pub Games features three games — one derived from roulette, another slots and the third blackjack — and almost fifty unlockable variations between each one. Players are awarded not only with Achievement Points but collectibles, too; as well as gold and treasures that Fable 2 characters may claim come October 21st.

Keystone. Bet inside, outside.
Hedge, if you like.
Props are authentic to Peter Molyneux's fantasyland. While jigs play, laughter mingles with the clinks and clanks of tavern-goers. Offstage revelers clap when a player pulls off a dazzling win.

Cross roulette with jenga — you have Keystone. It's a dice game in which game pieces, segmented in the form of an arch, are removed whenever each one's assigned number matches the roll. The arch will stand until one of its imposts are taken away, so for several turns a player may bet on dice combinations, number ranges, associated colors and more — trying Martingale or Fibonacci methods to heart's content — before the board is reset.

Spinnerbox will entrance or chill gambling's initiates, depending on what they think of the fugitive element called luck. Like a slot machine, Fable's spinnerbox comes with a variety of colorful reels — but, fundamentally, performs at random and requires a person simply to make it go. Anyone who has watched 60 Minutes or that episode of The Simpsons where Marge squared off with "Gamblor" will be familiar with the curiosity, idleness and/or compulsion required to keep pulling the operative lever. Is it foolish or exciting to bet three hundred gold pieces against ten spins on the short odds of a little easy money, or the long odds of a jackpot? The question occurred to me but my rumination was interrupted by a jackpot with a 100-to-1 payout. Do as I did: count your blessings first, then your winnings. Back away.

Fortune's Tower is Pub Games' main attraction, allowing players control over more than wagers — or simply whether to ante up or cash out. Dealt a single card face-down, players call for hands in progressively longer rows arranged in a pyramid — the first is two cards, the next three, and so on. Card value totals are set directly against the wager, and larger hands are more likely to bring winnings; but only at growing risk, since the round is over and the wager lost if like cards from consecutive hands touch. Although players may collect on any intact hand, successfully calling seven hands completes the pyramid and earns a jackpot totaling the entire table.

Players have two ways to beat steepening odds. If only one card in a row is a double, the hole card (or "Gate card") may be drawn once as a substitute, increasing or decreasing the hand total. Or, if a hand contains a "Hero card," any number of doubles can be ignored, and the round may continue.

Fortune's Tower. Learn when to
stand, and when to ask for more.
As each deck contains only four Hero cards, and a Gate card might lucklessly carry the same value as the card it replaces — while drawing the Gate card voids a jackpot — one soon learns the necessity of prudence.

The card game has an interesting little didactic feature — when a player busts or collects, the deck's remainder is laid on the table, in order, showing how the round might have resolved. Beginners, able to spot card patterns without the pressure of a wager, receive instruction better than any tutorial. And, too, it's validation for cautious players who worry they're forfeiting big money — much of the time, these rows produce lower totals or doubles, confirming a stand as the smart choice. After scores of rounds, only a few would have yielded jackpots. I happened to win the table twice, and not at all by design. Fortune's Tower enriches in modest amounts, but it is such fun to play that slow-and-steady is hardly a waste of time.

Be ever mindful Pub Games is gambling. The Lady isn't always one. Nothing can spare you from a bad hand, a bad roll, or spins adding up to diddlysquat. Yet in respect to that, experience is not a count of winnings. It's the coinage exchanged between house and patron. What's the prosperity of a gambler but survival? For Lionhead to have recognized this axiom is pretty astute of them — and auspicious for Fable II.

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